When I say the words “executive presence” which leader comes to mind that most exemplifies this for you?
Have you ever wondered how you could develop greater executive presence for yourself?
If you’re nodding along, keep reading. We’re going to walk you through three aspects of executive presence + how to develop them.
Nobody likes confusing directions, meetings that run long or guidance that’s hard to follow. Increase your executive presence by increasing the clarity of your communications and expectations — upfront.
Make your intentions clear + make sure you’re easy to follow.
Many times I see executives speak on a topic and I think to myself, “What is the purpose of their communication? What am I listening for? Do they want my feedback on something specific? Are they asking for a decision? What do I need to pay attention to?”
When people don’t know what to listen for, their minds are more likely to wander.
These days I nip this in the bud. When one of my C-suite clients starts a diatribe, I’ll stop them and say, “Tell me what I’m listening for, so I’ll know what to pay attention to.”
It’s surprisingly easy to make your intentions clear — just share the outcome of what you’re hoping to achieve upfront.
Instead of starting with “Here’s what happened…” say “I’d like to get your opinion on how I should handle a conflict on my team, so I’ll start with some context. Here’s what happened…”
See how much clearer that is? And you’re much more likely to get the outcome and support you need!
Be explicit about your expectations + what you’re asking for.
Again, just tell your people what you want. Right there in the presentation slides or in the meeting agenda or at the top of the conversation lay out your goals and expectations.
Those with strong executive presence communicate this upfront in a clear, concise way and direct the conversation the way they need it to go to achieve the result.
Authority isn’t about speaking in a loud voice and name dropping all the conferences you’ve keynoted. True authority comes from the ability to build trust. Does your team trust your competence, reliability and intention?
Find the authority from your intention, rather than leaning into your role or position.
Nobody appreciates when someone “pulls rank” or plays the “because I’m your boss” card. Instead, reference the intention behind your ask. If you need someone to work late on the new product launch, remind them of all the customers whose lives will be improved by this new product (rather than saying “Because I told you so”).
Shift away from traditional egoistic drives (being right, looking good) and into a meaningful “mission” outside of your ego-based needs.
Leaders are successful when their teams are successful. But it’s hard for a team to be successful when they’re brow-beaten by an executive with a “my way or the highway” approach. And it’s hard for a team to do their best work for a leader who is only concerned about how they look to others. I can always tell when a leader is truly committed to the mission — or more committed to looking good, being right or being in control.
Instead, focus on the mission or purpose of what you are doing for the company, clients and other stakeholders. What’s in it for them? Put your attention there, and your communication will have the integrity and earned authority that exudes executive presence.
Confidence isn’t just good posture. True confidence is a combination of strength and warmth that brings people in and builds connections. In other words, it makes everyone around you feel at ease by your strength (“I know where to go”) and warmth (“I respect and care for you”).
Now, there are many ways to communicate confidence as an executive. You demonstrate confidence in speed of decision making, asking tough questions, admitting vulnerabilities. But let’s talk about how to showcase your confidence in conferences, meetings or presentation situations, as that’s where lack of confidence is most on display.
Public speaking is a confidence-shaking experience for lots of people. Here’s the trick:
Move your attention away from your inner critic (that voice inside your head) to connecting with your audience.
This was one of the best things I learned from my post-graduate degree in acting from LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts).
Rather than obsessing about how you look standing in front of people (What do I do with my hands?) or the typo in that slide, focus on how much the audience is learning from this presentation. Focus on what you think they need or how this information will shift their thinking.
To help you remember this in moments of stress: When in doubt, focus OUT.
And if you can use this method in a presentation setting, you can use it in a 1:1 setting as well!
Communicate confidence with the right pacing, vocal variety and gestures.
You know an unconfident speaker when you hear one. Maybe they mumble and rush through their presentation or speak in a monotone the entire time. Maybe they’ve got one go-to gesture that they repeat every time they want to make a point.
None of these things communicate confidence to the audience. If you’re not sure how you come across, ask someone to record a video of your next presentation.
Take a look at it and be honest with yourself. Where could you speed things up or slow them down? Could you lower or raise your voice for emphasis? What gestures could you introduce other than those air quotes you use all the time? People crave vocal variety to keep things interesting — so look to where you can create greater impact with your language, tone and pacing.
Increasing your executive presence isn’t something that will happen overnight but, with some time and effort, it’s absolutely achievable.
If you want to develop greater executive presence in your senior leadership, we can help. We have specific models, workshops with video and coaching to up-level your communication. Get in touch here!